The initiative was jointly launched last year by New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key and Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, in response to the Japanese government’s goal to boost its young people’s English proficiency and sporting capacity as it prepares to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympics.
“The programme provides a life-changing experience for young people that builds self-confidence, leadership and teamwork”
Through the ‘Game On English’ programme, administered by representative body English New Zealand, Japanese high school students live with homestay families while undergoing daily English language classes and rugby training.
Students also act as ambassadors for New Zealand’s education in Japan, Grant McPherson, chief executive of Education New Zealand, said at the launch last year.
In July, Pathways College at Waikato University and the Waikato Rugby Union welcomed twelve male Japanese high school students for three weeks of intensive rugby coaching and English language learning.
And this month, 10 female high school rugby sevens players are training with New Zealand Language Centres and the Auckland Rugby Union, supported by Japan’s Ministry of Sport and Education and the Japanese Rugby Union.
There are also plans to expand the ‘Game On English’ programme to rowing following a pilot this year between Otago University and the Otago University Rowing club, which hosted four athletes and a coach from Kyoto University.
“The programme provides a life-changing experience for young people that builds self-confidence, leadership and teamwork and helps them develop the necessary skills to reach their sporting and learning potential,” commented Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie, chairman of English New Zealand.
Students undertaking the rugby programme this year will be able to train at five provincial rugby union academies throughout the country, in Auckland, Hamilton, Mount Maunganui, Christchurch and Dunedin.